Progress Is Impossible Without Change – A Post From Timo Hannay
As my colleagues learned this week, Digital Science is to get a new managing director: from July 1st, Daniel Hook will take the reins. I couldn’t be more pleased for him or the business. Inevitably, the transition from one Managing Director to another raises questions, so allow me to explain.
Earlier this year I took a much-needed sabbatical following the intense experience of leading Digital Science through its formative years. During this break, I kept my hand in by visiting customers and giving some talks about our work. But I also found a new rhythm to life that’s more conducive to a healthy constitution and a happy family. As a result of the deliberations that inevitably followed, and with not a small amount of personal regret, I have therefore decided to stand down as Managing Director of Digital Science from the end of this month.
Let me be clear that this is not because my belief in Digital Science, or enthusiasm for its mission, is in any way diminished. On the contrary, my time away provided me with a perspective that left me even more deeply impressed with its collective inventiveness and commitment, and the importance of what we have begun over these last four or five years.
It’s clear that our wider community – Digital Science’s clients, collaborators and in many cases cheerleaders – truly value our contribution to changing the world of research. This was brought home to me again last week when I attended Digital Science Showcase events for customers and potential customers in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The enthusiasm was palpable and the feedback afterwards incredibly positive. I felt energised and proud.
So why am I standing down? I’m doing so because Digital Science needs and deserves a leader who can live up to its bold ambitions, one who can put in the long hours and rack up the air miles in pursuit of our goals. I have spent the past five years criss-crossing the globe, away from my young family and now want to be able to make my work fit around my life rather than the other way around.
This is not to say that I’m looking for an easy ride. So I’ll be starting again as a one-man band, this time to pursue another personal obsession: education. In particular, I want to help schools make better use of the reams of data that flow out of our education system. If that sounds idealistic, it is. It’s also a risk and most likely will fail. But that’s what people said when we set up Digital Science. As this experience has taught me, taking risks can occasionally reap great rewards in terms of achievement and satisfaction.
What of Digital Science’s future? This isn’t and has never been a job for just one person, even if the buck ultimately stops with me. On the contrary, I have benefited, and Digital Science has benefited, from a central management team with huge amount of strength in depth, as well as the entrepreneurial perspective and talents of our portfolio company founders and CEOs.
This same team will continue to take Digital Science forward, so my message today is much more one of continuity than of change. Digital Science is, and always has been, more than one person, and that is more true today than ever.
I’m therefore delighted that my successor comes from within the existing team, and it’s a person who embodies our mission and ideals more than most – and certainly more than me. Daniel and I have uncannily similar views of, and ambitions for, Digital Science, and I can’t think of anyone better suited to leading this incredibly special organisation through its next phase. I have complete confidence that he will continue to uphold the ethos that has been so central to our success to date.
I remain hugely optimistic and excited about Digital Science’s future and I will continue to follow it closely. But the time has come for me to pass on the baton, with some personal sadness of course, but more importantly with a huge sense of pride and anticipation.